Sanford fourth grader Kylie Sokoloff is turning 10 years old this summer. However, Kylie isn't looking for gifts this year. Instead, she was hoping that her friends would come over and help her with a project impacting girls her age in Africa.
Turning 10 years old is a milestone birthday. Finally, it's double digits. Most kids want to celebrate with their friends and family, eating cake and ice cream and opening lots of presents picked out especially for the occasion.
Sanford fourth grader Kylie Sokoloff saw her birthday as an opportunity to do more than blow out candles on a cake or open presents.
"I have everything I need but I know other people don't," said Kylie. "Plus, I think every girl needs a pretty dress."
So, looking for a way for Kylie to celebrate her birthday and fulfill her desire to give other little girls a small piece of what she already has, Kylie's mom Jennifer Brooks and grandmother Andrea Sokoloff (also known as Mom-Mom) starting scouring the internet.
"When I first found out that Kylie wanted to celebrate by giving back to the community, I was at a bit of a loss," said Brooks. "Should we go with a clothing drive? A soup kitchen? Then, being the modern grandma that she is, Mom-Mom went online and found a few charities. The one that really stood out was the Little Dresses for Africa."
The charity they found, Little Dresses for Africa, is a non-profit faith-based charity that collects easy-to-make pillowcase dresses that are sent to impoverished regions in Africa. According to the organization's website, more than 1 million dresses have been distributed to 43 African countries.
"My mom is really good at sewing and I'm learning to sew so we thought this would be perfect," said Kylie. "This is actually my first time to do charity work. It makes me feel really good knowing that I'm helping other people."
And, while Kylie is pleased that she might have an impact on little girls on the other side of the ocean, she's also making an impact right in her community by inspiring her friends to donate their time and efforts, too.
Classmate Hannah Davenport is one of Kylie's friends who found inspiration in the idea.
"I was so amazed that Kylie didn't want any presents," said Davenport. "I immediately told my mom and dad, 'I want to go to this party. I want to help the community, too.'"
Brooks said that while this may be Kylie's first foray into charity work, her enthusiasm about this project wasn't a complete surprise.
"Kylie is creative and she loves all things art, design and fashion," said Brooks, "I know that I might have a biased opinion of my kid, but she's also truly compassionate. She's just a quirky, smart, artistic kid with a big heart."
The whole project also brought on a whirlwind of emotions for Brooks who found herself proud of her daughter and touched that so many people wanted to be involved. Aside from the girls that attended Kylie's party and all the help that Mom-Mom provided, the party wouldn't have been complete without the help of Nancy Watson, a neighbor's grandmother who brought her sewing machines all the way from North Carolina and patiently put the finishing touches on all 20 dresses.
The dresses only took about an hour and a half to finish, thanks to Brooks's pre-party preparations, and the rest of the night was dedicated to traditional slumber party chaos: pizza, birthday cake and lots of playing.
However, the girls really seemed to take the message of the project to heart and several girls indicated that they were hoping to throw similar parties when their birthdays rolled around.
"This is my favorite birthday party ever," said Kylie. "I think I'm going to do this every year. Maybe next year, I'll make even more dresses."